A year now.
For a year now, I’ve been trying a new way of being. It’s a slower life, one that allows a tiny splash of grace to trickle into the moments that are frenzied, like when the dogs are barking and the kitchen timer just went off, and the toddler peed on the rug (again). It has a lot to do with small changes, and a few big ones, but mostly it’s just a tiny shift in my head, a pinch of salt on my eggs.
For me, it’s asking forgiveness when I’d rather retreat, or run, or stack the invisible hurts like a house of cards – my own defense tower. It’s offering discipline with grace and gentleness when I’d rather yell and shake my fists, correcting my toddler with sheer will, or control, or guilt-inducing words. It’s finding a sacred beauty in the endless cycle of cooking and washing and feeding, cooking and washing and feeding. (When really, I’d rather just read another Didion.)
It’s trying and failing and failing again, a tiny hummingbird flapping her wings over and over and over until – by God’s grace – a gust of second wind arrives in the form of steaming hot coffee, a friend’s advice, a warm bath.
It’s disorganized and not at all seamless, like an untrained symphony – frazzled conductor, pitchy instruments.
Practicing this new way of being – this slowing, this mindfulness – is just that: a practice. It’s the learning of a new sport, the fitting of a new dress – a deep, intrinsic mix of fancy footwork and endless alterations. It requires much of me, of my time and energy and focus. It is work, a beautiful and worthy work, but work nonetheless. And on some days, or cold nights, it feels selfish.
I have a friend who is a singer/songwriter, and she once said to me that there are times in which it takes an entire season to compose a single song. It comes out in fits and bursts, a broken showerhead where the water pressure is too much and then not enough and suddenly, a trickle of a chord or drip of a lyric breaks through – as sure as the moon – and there, progress.
And in those seasons, she said, she must be selfish, for there is something beautiful springing forth and it requires all of her being.
And so, she might decline that work opportunity, or the volunteer position at church, and she might ignore three dozen emails that feel pressing, or timely, or important. She might quit her book club, or cancel that dinner, or reschedule a meeting. She would appear – to the outside world – distracted, unreliable, flighty. Selfish.
And yet, inside, there is a portrait being painted. There is a masterpiece being chiseled, and her job is to show up, and to allow it, and to invite it, and to pick up the paintbrush, the hammer, again and again and again.
And so, I keep practicing. I keep showing up, right here at home. I keep strumming as the laundry is piling, swaying as the dishes are dirtying, singing as the toddler tantrum is brewing. I keep allowing this to be what it is – a season of deep concentration and focus and learning, and I keep awaiting the moment that will surely arrive, when I know the music is ringing and swelling, spilling out in soundwaves and motion – far beyond myself and my family, beyond four walls and a roof.
And the crescendo will be heard in the cancelled book club, the missed event, the rescheduled dinner, and it will have been worth the wait for all of us. Because it will have grown – in pitch and intensity and tune and goodness – and we will nod our heads together, tap our feet, pour a full glass of wine.
And we will dance.